Sex education for teenagers crucial
By Dr Kamini Rao
Medical Director of Milann, The Fertility Center
In a world where women are told to watch what they eat and maintain a desirable image to be considered respectable in society, it is important to understand that a woman’s body is more than what meets the eye.
It is the ultimate temple where the gift of life resides. From a young age, girls are told they are different from boys. But until one actually treads that difficult path of puberty and matures into womanhood, it is difficult to understand what a woman goes through.
Pregnancy is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful experiences in a woman’s life. But, unfortunately, these days not many women really take care of their body during this stage, resulting in several complications. In this context, it is important to understand that quite contrary to popular conceptions, the road towards pregnancy and motherhood does not begin in one’s twenties or thirties.
Early lifestyle habits in girls shape their reproductive streams. If girls neglect their bodies early on, it is natural that they will need to undergo consequences later in life, be it in the form of menstruation problems or reproductive disorders. It is the time and energy one invests in his/her personal health in her twenties that decide the quality of benefits that can be reaped in the forties.
It has been observed that since 2010, the number of teenage pregnancies has drastically increased. It is also seen that a good number of teenagers who opt for an early abortion refrain from visiting private clinics for the same, instead seeking out the help of a Dai (traditional midwife), who might resort to unscientific and unhygienic practices. Most of these incidents end up in severe health complications in the carrying women; many even lose their ability to reproduce permanently as a result of undergoing such interventions. The impact of abortion has far-reaching consequences that can range from physical sickness to chronic depression. It could result in sexual dysfunction, infertility, psychological disorder, cancer, etc.
The government of India had issued the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), which came into effect in 1972. The Act permits abortion if the doctor believes “in good faith” that “…the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”. However, contradictory to this, the execution of abortions in many government hospitals or private medical institutions is a challenge as we witness a situation where women are scorned at and even insulted for walking in alone for an abortion.
Quite similar to a natural miscarriage, women could be mentally and physically affected post-abortion. Still, unfortunately, most women do not get the necessary support from either their own near and dear ones or from their partners to help them recover from the trauma of an abortion.
Every person is different; one woman’s reaction to an abortion will certainly be different from another’s at a spiritual, emotional, psychological or physical level. These impacts can vary over time, depending on the mental health of the person. Abortion can also leave long-lasting emotional and psychological scars sometimes.
Educating our younger generation on one’s body, sex, etc., is therefore important to help them stay safe and fine. Sex education is a must for young teenagers in combating unplanned pregnancies and taking necessary actions to avoid medical complications. Though the topic of sex is frowned upon or dismissed, neglecting it completely and not developing the right understanding about the subject can cause grave consequences in our youth.
Vaginal health is another vital aspect of women’s health not discussed openly. However, addressing this is critical since it ensures a well-rounded health routine. Often, women forget that the vagina is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and needs special attention. Ignoring vaginal health can lead to many diseases and infections, some of which can even be sexually transmitted to one’s partners. So, it is essential to know the proper methods of keeping one’s vagina clean.
It is of the utmost importance that teenage girls and boys understand the changes that their bodies undergo when they reach adolescence, and this is possible only when proper sex education is imparted. Sex education will make the young well-informed about their bodies and ensure that their decision to have sex is with the full knowledge of the possible outcome, instead of indulging in it out of sheer curiosity.
(The writer is Medical Director, Milann – Centre for Reproductive Medicine)